Behind the scenes, the 120 members of the gold-label Art Dealers Association of America bitch and moan about the byzantine selection process for the much-anticipated Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory, Feb. 19-24, 2009, which always seems to ensure prime exhibition space for the major players, leaving many B-level ADAA members out in the cold.
To the public, however, the Armory Show is a model contemporary art world, filled with the best new art at 70 top galleries -- a sort of "Potemkin Village" for the art business. The push to make the show less of a "bazaar" of 20th-century moderns is reflected this year by the large number of solo shows -- an incredible 24 in all.
One highlight is the new painted photos and monotypes by 77-year-old Gerhard Richter at Marian Goodman Gallery. Other solo artists are Mel Bochner (Peter Freeman), Rackstraw Downes (Betty Cunningham), Barry Flanagan (Paul Kasmin), Merlin James (Sikkema Jenkins), Sol LeWitt (PaceWildenstein), Robert Longo (Metro Pictures), Ernesto Neto (Tanya Bonakdar), Hélio Oiticica (Galerie Lelong), Ken Price (Matthew Marks), Al Taylor (David Zwirner) and Nicola Tyson (Friedrich Petzel).
In this context, the booth of David Tunick, the dean of Old Master drawings dealers, stands like an island in the storm, filled with works on paper from the 15th century to the 1930s. One rarity is a large-format drawing by John Constable from ca. 1803-05, previously unpublished, titled A Study of Trees. "Far from the most expensive item we have," Tunick said, "but for me, the most exciting in many ways." The price? $150,000.
A few sales were notched at the Art Show’s gala opening on Feb. 18, but not many. Ace Bloomberg News art reporter Katya Kazakina recorded one, a Cindy Sherman photograph, sold for$600,000 by Manhattan dealer Per Skarsted, and Art Info’s Sarah Douglas noted that Sperone Westwater had sold a suite of six William Wegman photos from 1973 for $80,000.
"Down markets bring out treasures," says veteran photo dealer Janet Borden, whose booth features photo-portraits of artists. If only they brought out buyers as well.
Underwater Aby: With the saucy headline "Underwater Aby," the New York Post reports that art mogul Aby Rosen may have lost $200 million on a Stamford real-estate investment (thus being "underwater" on the deal) -- but the Post hastens to say that the loss, a small part of his portfolio, is "not likely to rock his real-estate world."
Museum money: Listed as supporting patrons at the New Museum are Ponzi king Bernard L. Madoff and his wife Ruth, who gave between $25,000 and $1 million. The museum won’t say how much. . . . One of the funders of curator Alexandra Munroe’s magisterial "The Third Mind" at the Guggenheim Museum is the Rosenkranz Foundation, headed by her husband Robert Rosenkranz, chair of the $5-billion Delphi Financial Group.
Magazine rack: Brant Publishing, sensing an upswing with its trio of titles (Interview, Art in America and the Magazine Antiques), is planning a fourth -- a contemporary design quarterly called 20/Modern. The new book falls under the aegis of new Magazine Antiques editor Elizabeth Pochoda. . . . Rumors that Modern Painters breathes its last with its March issue are mistaken, says editor Lyra Kilston, who has just put the April issue to bed, a special on photography with Hiroshi Sugimoto on the cover. The mag is getting by with only three staffers, however.
Artists and dealers: Young superstar photographer Ryan McGinley has teamed up with British artist Dinos Chapman to do hip designer Stella McCartney’s spring 2009 ad campaign, starring Kate Moss. McGinley does the photos, while Chapman paints watercolor backgrounds.
The Larry Rivers estate is now represented by Tibor de Nagy Gallery, which plans a show in May at the gallery (Rivers was repped by Marlborough). . . . The Whitney Museum may acquire the Jack Smith estate, insiders say.
A new selling strategy? A celebrated Chelsea dealer, who shall remain nameless here, seems to be trying out a novel sales strategy. After a major collector expressed interest in an artwork (but didn’t take delivery or even agree to buy), the dealer sent the collector an invoice -- and is now threatening to sue for payment.
Openings and closings: Danziger Projects moves from West 26th Street into Perry Rubenstein's 24th Street space, opening Mar. 13, 2009, with a show of photos by Tanyth Berkeley (an artist on loan from Bellwether) of her favorite model, Grace, who is an albino. Old hands will remember that Rubenstein moved into Danziger's space at 130 Prince Street in SoHo 12 years ago.
Team Gallery in SoHo opens a new project space in its basement, Gallery-C, with shows of new art curated by gallery staff (Miriam Katzeff, Owen Reynolds Clements and Alex Logsdail). First up is "Look the Other Way" by Josh Shaddock, opening Feb. 19.
Williamsburg stalwart Pierogi opens a second exhibition space in the neighborhood, dubbed the Boiler, on Mar. 7 with a show by Tavares Strachan -- which includes his Arctic Ice Project, a five-ton block of ice in a giant cooler.
After 27 continuous years in the gallery business, Ellen Donahue and Ronald Sosinski are closing the Proposition on West 22nd Street at the end of its current show. "Call it a hiatus," Donahue said. "When the economy improves, we’ll be back."
A special, Chelsea Art District economic indicator: receipts at Bottino, the neighborhood art restaurant, are down 25 percent since last November.
Buying and selling: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is raising funds to acquire Roberto Matta’s Burn Baby Burn (1965-66), a rather large painting devoted to the Watts Riots. . . . Greenberg Van Doren Gallery did well with Eva Lundsager’s show of abstract paintings on canvas and small watercolors -- selling all the large works for about $30,000 each. Jewel-like watercolors can still be had for as little as $1,350.
Marilyn Monroe is the center of attention in our own special Marilyn Monroe Photographs Sale, on view in Artnet Online Auctions, Feb. 10-24, 2009. The 50 lots range from Andre de Dienes’ 1949 gelatin silver print of a young Marilyn to nine prints from Bert Stern’s "Lost Sitting." Whether you buy or not -- and many of the works aren’t very expensive -- the pictures are simply gorgeous.
Fair news: Applications are being accepted to participate in ArtHamptons, July 9-12, 2009, presenting 68 dealers in a custom structure in Bridgehampton at the height of the summer season; see www.arthamptons.com for details.
Hot ticket during Armory Show week is the performance of the art-rock band the X-Patsys -- actress Barbara Sukowa with artists Robert Longo and Jon Kessler -- at the downtown cabaret space Le Poisson Rouge on Mar. 6, 2009. The show is presented by Performa, whose third performance biennial is slated for Nov. 1-22, 2009.
Late Valentine’s Day gift: The buzz is definitely on for Mie Yim’s new A.B.C. of S.E.X.,a playful Kama Sutra done in the furry tones of plush toys. For details, go to www.pointedleafpress.com